The New Jersey Devils’ all-time leading scorer Patrik Elias officially announced his retirement from the National Hockey League at 8AM this morning. It was not unexpected but still heartbreaking to say the least. He has missed this entire season to rehab his long-term knee injury.
Elias was selected 51st overall by the Devils in 1994, and has spent his entire 19-year career in New Jersey. Playing an entire career with a single team is a feat in itself. He is also a two-time Stanley Cup Champion, and leads the Devils all-time in goals (408), assists (617), and points (1,025) in 1,240 games played. He also holds the records for most points in a season (96), most career game-winning goals (80), and most hat tricks (8). He also leads in even-strength goals (279) and power play goals (113). And while those numbers are already impressive, his numbers would have been better had the Devils been more of an offensive-minded team rather than defensive-minded one in front of Martin Brodeur. He made four All-Star Game appearances in 2000, 2002, 2011, and 2015. He also made the NHL All-Rookie team in 1998.
He was undoubtedly the best forward to ever play for the Devils organization, but is it enough to get him into the Hall of Fame? It’s debatable, but this biased Devils fan says yes. Regardless, he’s had an incredibly illustrious career and will go down as one of the best to ever wear that red and black jersey, and to play the game.
He will drop the ceremonial puck at Monday’s game against the Flyers. He will participate in Friday’s open practice with the rest of the team. He will take his final warm-up skate on Saturday against the Islanders, in his final appearance as a New Jersey Devil at The Rock.
His last official game came agains the Maple Leafs last season at home, when he played with fellow Czech Pavel Zacha, a passing of the torch of sorts. He had an assist and a goal, one which I will never, ever forget. I was unable to get to the game but I watched from home and it was one of the greatest moments I’ve ever experienced. He scored with 19 seconds left in regulation and witnessing him score one last time was incredible. The reception from the crowd was unparalleled, and I have to admit that I cried, just like I did this morning.
Patrik Elias. It has been an honor to watch you play in all the years that I’ve been a fan of the game and the organization. You made the Devils fun to watch, and you put them on the map. Your career has been matched by so few to have ever played the game, and your presence in the Devils locker room and on the team will be missed by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing you.
Thank you for all of the little moments and the big ones, like setting up Jason Arnott’s game-winning and Stanley Cup-winning goal back in 2000 in double overtime against Dallas. Thank you for everything that you’ve done for this team, for this organization, for this sport, and most importantly, for the fans. You are so incredibly gracious and kind and humble, and you played the game like no other. I will miss watching you play just as every other Devils fan and hockey fan will. Thank you for everything.
And so a new era begins in New Jersey. Thank you, Patty.